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Special Event

Meet the Curators: Aunty! African Women in the Frame, 1870 to the Present

January 15, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

United Photo Industries
16 Main Street, Suite B
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
(718) 801-8099

A special invite-only event with the curators of our current exhibition, where our guests will learn more about the images on the wall and get a sneak peak of what’s in store for UPI and Photoville this year with wine, hors d’oeuvres and great company!


Aunty!, opening on November 15 at the United Photo Industries Gallery in Brooklyn, features a trove of original archival, vintage, and contemporary images from the The McKinley Collection, a repository of rare, original images ranging from portraiture to cartes de visite, spanning the African continent from Morocco to South Africa, Guinea to Kenya, Madagascar to Benin, from the 1890s to now.

Curated by photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, this exhibition from the collection of Catherine E. McKinley, centers images of African women and engages with the nuances of the “Aunty” as both a colonial construction and honorific of African womanhood.

This exhibition takes up the idea and figure of the Aunty and the duality of this naming. At once an expression of love and affection, Aunty is an honorific across most Black world cultures, a recognition of a feminine power rooted in indigeneity. As powerfully, it connotes the violence of the original colonial construction of the word: the corporeal, dark, servile figure, buffoonish in her role of colonial nurse. It is also a name burdened by African and Diaspora grapplings with gender and often troubling constructions of motherhood, sexuality, etc.

In these 100 plus images, we look at Auntys through the troubling lens of colonialism, including a few earlier photographic images of the late 1890s, and also the colonial and postcolonial lens of African male photographers, to vernacular images of post-Independence partygoers and studio sittings, to Zina Saro Wiwa (UK/Nigeria), Patricia Coffie (Ghana/USA) and Fatoumatou Diabite’s (Mali) contemporary renderings. For McKinley and Barrayn, Aunties is an attempt to look head-on at the beauty of the images and also their more often discomfiting legacies, and the moments where the subjects look back at the viewer reassuringly, with a sense of control of her image, and pleasure in herself.